Cortlyn Yeargin
South County
Lorton, VA
12th Grade
Second Place Winner

When considering the question "What would make your high school experience more relevant to your

future?" I can expound on several notable areas that can improve my high school experience and

enhance the high school experience for all student's future in the United States. These changes would

include making learning more application based to keep up with technology, hiring highly qualified

teachers and paying them a higher salary, addressing the poverty in the U.S. and making medical care a

right for myself and every U.S. citizen. Only by addressing these key areas can I fully have a high school

experience that would be more relevant to my future.

First, I would have to ponder with all the rapid advances in technologies did I take the right courses or

was I exposed to the appropriate extracurricular activities. Did I spent too much time learning calculus

and not enough time applying those numerical concepts in building a highway surface that won't

crumble when it snows. Instead of joining the Linguistics Team, should I have spent my time in a

chemistry lab developing a formula to dissolve excess plastic in our ocean. It is unimaginable how quickly

our world has changed and will change in a span of five or 10 years when it comes to advancements in

science and technology. It's not enough to learn only practical knowledge like reading, writing and math

without having a clinical approach for application. Students need to be partnered as much as possible

with corporations, medical facilities and technical companies to apply what they learn in school. It is

important for young students to be equipped with the right knowledge and opportunities to help maintain

an open mind , develop comfort with new concepts and programs and be ready for all of the

developments that await, some of which we'd have a hard time even imaging right now.

Secondly, hiring more qualified teachers would make my high school experience more beneficial to post

secondary education.Why are our United States students lagging behind when it comes to education? I'll

tell you why. According to the Organization for Economic Corporation and Development (OECD), it's not

the money that the U.S. spends on educating it's student's but the money invested in retaining qualified

teachers. On average in 2014, the U.S. spent $16,268 per year to educate kindergarten through third

graders while the global average was $10,759. Still other countries such as Finland,Singapore, Germany,

Netherlands, New Zealand,Canada and China rank one to three years ahead of the U.S. in science,

reading and math. One of the answers to that question is hire qualified teachers and pay them more to

work in that profession. When Singapore and South Korea hired qualified teachers and retained them

with a higher paying salary, that truly worked for the betterment of the students. According to the

Guardian, in 2013, Canada did just that. Canada revamped it's teacher training and made the profession

more competitive by reducing the number of available slots in order to improve quality. The student's

test scores greatly improved even when it came to immigrant students. Canada's focus on high

standards, flexibility, and personalized learning has paid dividends. This is a wonderful model that the

U.S. should follow to enhance the high school experience for myself and our country's future.

Next, when it comes to the socio-economic effects of poverty on a student's ability to learn, the affects

are linked hand in hand. Poverty is the single most devastating barrier to learning. Poor students suffer

lifestyle and health issues that hinder their ability to learn even before they begin school. This level of

inability can lead a student to fall behind and even quit high school. Poor families are less likely to have

the means to afford proper nutrition and lack food at home. According to Moneywise, A 2008 study shows

that not eating breakfast or lunch can reduce the brain's capacity to learn. Students from impoverished

households tend to have lower levels of verbal and reasoning skills than their peers because their

parents are too stressed dealing with mundane task to read to them. As a result, a study done in 1995

found that poor primary students had heard 32 million fewer words than other students in higher earning

incomes. These continued stressors on the brain can result in an inability to pay attention, regulate

emotions, or develop proper memory function. A 2008 study found that poor children attending schools

in ill repair or lacking school resources and teachers makes the student feel helpless and unwanted. As I

think about my lifestyle now, a high school student living at home with my parent's supporting me, I am

blessed. I could never support a family let alone myself while working for minimum wage at Sweet Frog

Yogurt Shop. Let me also add that minimum wage in Virginia is $7.25 an hour which began Jan 1, 2014.

A higher living wage is definitely needed to help combat poverty for working families and add to a high

school student's positive experience for the future.

Lastly, having access to medical care would increase a high school student's relevance to the future. I

can recall when I didn't have health insurance, my Mom would urge me to be careful. You see, I was quite

active playing high school girls JV Basketball, running Cross Country and Outdoor Track and Field and on

the Crew Team. My mom had a single health plan through her employer. It would cost an additional

$950.00 per month for me to be enrolled onto a family plan with her employer. That was a monetary

amount that our family just couldn't afford. My family isn't alone in this dilemma. According to the Kaiser

Family Foundation, more than 41 million people were uninsured as of 2013. Private health insurance

premiums are expensive which makes most individual health insurance coverage unaffordable. What

ever the reason, a lack of health insurance can have costly and sometimes final consequences, delayed

care or less access to quality care along with tax penalties. A report by FamiliesUSA, state that 26,100

people died prematurely in 2010 as a result of not having health coverage. The risk of financial burden

and increased debt from excessive healthcare expenses is a real threat for lack of health insurance.

According to a study by Nerd Wallet, medical debt is the number one reason people file for personal

bankruptcy. Medical debt also causes a drop in credit score due to collections and high credit card

balances. My family and I was truly fortunate that I didn't have a catastrophic injury while I didn't have

health insurance coverage. Having universal health insurance would surely make my high school

experience more relevant to my future and the future of countless Americans.

In conclusion, making learning more application based to keep with the changes in technologies, hiring

more qualified teachers and paying them a higher salary, increasing the minimum wage and decreasing

poverty, and implementing universal healthcare would make my high school experience more relevant

for my future and the future of all Americans. Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes said it best in their lyrics

to Wake Up Every Body. " The world won't get no better if we just let it be. We gotta change it, just you

and me."

Work Cited

1., Sept. 7, 2018, Dunkin, Chris, U.S. Student Test Scores Lag Behind other Country's

2., Sept. 14, 2017, Johnston, Kevin, How Does Poverty Affect Learning?

3. Nov. 08, 2013, Scott, Sherrie, What Are the Consequences of Not Having Health


4., 1973 Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes, Wake Up Everybody, Part One